Nick Zigelbaum and Kate MacLean together with their young son run at small diversified Animal Welfare Approved farm on 120 acres in Chelsea, Vermont. Nick raises Milking Devon cows and Kate raises Icelandic sheep and Ossabaw pigs. The farm carries with it many chickens, dogs, a few goats, and a Jersey milking cow too.

3.10.2014

Crawling out of hibernation.


I've often thought of writing you. As the days keep running by, despite Winter's interminable stay, not one goes by when I don't think to myself, Ah! That would make a good blog icebreaker!

Like when the mercury barely crawled about zero for a week, and our roads and paths were pure ice. Every time we went to collect eggs one of us would fall, smashing all the precious edible gold every day, for nearly a week. It wasn't much to write on but it was sure entertainment in a bad farm sitcom way. Oh no! Not AGAIN! She exclaims, covered in frozen yoke. [[cue laugh track]]

Or the time I trudged up the cellar stairs with a plastic container fished from the bowels of one of our three freezers filled with the summer's haul. I announced proudly to my mother, Nick, and Leland that I would make chicken liver paté out of its contents, only for Nick to turn and laugh. I had found, not the livers, but my very own placenta, packaged discretely and hurriedly in a yogurt container, thrown into the freezer with the vague thought of planting it someday under a tree (but what sort of tree!?) to commemorate Leland's birth. A warning to all future visitors: It now currently resides in the upstairs freezer as I have become a woman of old bones who doesn't like to walk back down the very stairs I had ascended 10 minutes earlier.  

I thought about writing to speculate on the pregnancies or general fatness of my ewes. The white ewe is the size of a large truck. So flat and wooly on top that it isn't uncommon to see a chicken or two riding her back around the barnyard. I have spent many a breastfeeding (currently, my lone moments for reading) pouring over the lambing sections of our sheep husbandry books. I am a snarl of anxiety and excitement for the arrival of lambing. I am also uncertain as to their expected due date. I (shamefully) blame the baby for my lack of records last year. All I can be certain of is that they will lamb (if they are bred and not just fat) some time between last Friday and May. Which means I am checking their broad backsides and squeezing little sheep teats every morning in hopes of more precise information.

I thought about writing regarding our newest house-pig, Raleigh.  A boar piglet we brought back from North Carolina. He is wickedly cute and is currently a porch gargoyle. Emerging from his kennel stuffed with hay to snort and greet visitors. He and our one-year old German Shepard are bosom buddies, sleeping together on the dog bed and taking walks with each other up the drive way looking for Trouble.

I very nearly wrote you last Saturday when I saw two robins on my drive home, just 15 miles south of our farm. I almost missed them, they floated right up above my window, and then dived away to the side as I sped down the narrow road by the river. I've thought about that pair nearly everyday since, wondering if it was a mirage. Not 500 yards further a flock of snow buntings danced above a hay field thick with a foot of snow ice. They are birds of two separate seasons, requiring two separate kinds of pasture. I must have imagined the robins.  And so, there was little to write to you about there, except for the sad hope of a woman who wants to see spring under the blanket of March.

I stayed away from the blog this winter, because this winter has been about Nick and I and Leland getting to know each other. Watching our son grow has been the incredible lesson in humility and love I had hoped it to be. And that is mostly a private (and beautiful) matter, not fit for here, for me and my hopes of this space. It has been restorative to take this break (with the occasional peak into our lives and the lives of our friends via Instagram).

But I write to you today. Nick is at his new off-farm job, running a lab that tests milk samples for local cheesemakers (hooray for off-farm income!). Leland is sleeping. So are the pigs, the cows, the sheep and goats, and chickens. It is midday on March 10th. Everyone is fed. The snow is beginning to fall again with a week of steady snow promised. There is nothing much to do but revel in the quiet of winter. It is now that we must revel in its beauty, in is unrivaled silence. The rest is not eternal, no matter how long winter wears on. Summer is coming and our days will soon be filled with the physical exhaustion the farm demands. It isn't long now until I find myself, inexplicably covered in cow shit, weeding the tomatoes, and from the tiredness abandon my post to lay prostrate under the July sun. Catching my breath and shirking my garden duties I will surely fish my phone out of my short's pocket to fondle photos of this white and frozen landscape and think, ahh! I long for the rest of winter!

So I took the quiet of today to welcome myself back to this space I hold so dear. I look forward to writing to you again soon.  But for now one of the dogs just let in the aforementioned gargoyle (pig) and he is tearing into a bag of flour.....I must be off!

The above, are photos of our recent trip to my cousin's farm in North Carolina. Not of Vermont in the winter time, no matter how much I wish it to be so.

17 comments:

  1. Thank goodness the winter is passing and spring is (hopefully) right around the corner. It's good to take time to enjoy yourself, your family, and the land you live on :) Glad to see you back... Raleigh is too cute!

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  2. That looks like the happiest goat to ever live. Beautiful. All of it! Love your words.

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  3. I'm so glad I checked your blog on a whim tonight! I had no idea a goat could be so beautiful. Your writing is captivating, a great story teller you are. I sure hope the impending arrival of spring brings you back to share more stories with us of your beautiful life!

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  4. Kate! You've returned. Wonderful. Back in my midwifing days I would bring unwanted placentas home to practice my suturing skills. I once left one of these placentas in the fridge where I was house sitting only to remember once I was in Utah. It was an awkward conversation, but luckily I live in a town full of understanding hippy-types.

    And yes, that goat has some spectacular eyes. All of the sweet creatures here today captured my heart. Great post.

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  5. I love your posts! Thank you for your wonderful writing! I always check if there is a new post but until then I deeply enjoy your beautiful pictures (and comments!) on instagram. I am happy that you decided to share parts of your inspiring live with us out there, so I can sneek away for some minutes from my everyday life. ;) I truely enjoy that! Lovely greetings from Germany.

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  6. It's good to see you back here, I was wondered where you had gone...lost in the wilds of Vermont. Great animal photos, especially the goat and geese.
    We get another week of true winter weather here in the northeast and then who knows, perhaps spring will arrive along with the usually frenzy of chores...you with the farm and me with the nursery.....but it's always an exciting and welcome time.

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  7. Welcome back, I always enjoy your posts because as mentioned you're a good story teller. The photos are so great and it's clear that Leland is forever etched in your hearts. Here in Southeastern Wisconsin, Little Prairie, the melt has only begun and my sheep, llamas and chickens are starting to pick through the remnants of this hard winter.

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  8. So nice to hear from you after your long winter reflection; spring is nigh.

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  9. I am SO relieved to hear I was not the only one with a long forgotten placenta in the bottom of their freezer!

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  10. Welcome back! We're lucky to have what little glimpses you offer into your beautiful and messy world and like any glutton, I'll take what is offered. Until next time!

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  11. Whatever the topic, it's good to have you back!!

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  12. Happy to hear your voice again and even happier to hear that you have taken some quiet time to be present with your family...it sounds as though it was *just what you needed. Cheers to spring on our doorsteps and longer, brighter days ahead!

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  13. "squeezing little sheep teats" is the best sentence I've read this week, I think.

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  14. This blog is like therapy. And it makes me smile. And I can read it over and over again. And I love every bit of it. Thank you Kate!

    Anna

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  15. happy to see you writing, i love the second person approach you took here. it makes me miss your posts more. enjoy your boys!

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  16. Beautiful beautiful.
    my morning tonic.xx

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  17. Beautiful words and pictures! I'm glad you are writing again--I have missed your posts.

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